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President Donald Trump. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

70% of Americans believe country grew more divided under Trump, poll says

Few believe Biden administration will bring new unity

By Nikita Biryukov, November 19 2020 11:00 am

A sizeable majority of Americans believe the country has become more divided under President Donald Trump, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday.

Fully 70% of respondents said the country was more divided now than when Trump took office, including 90% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans.

Few, 31%, believe the country will unite over the next year, and a quarter of respondents said they expected America’s partisan schisms to expand in the first year of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. Another 35% expect no change.

“We agree on the problem — the country is deeply divided at its core. However, we don’t quite agree whether compromise or principle will get us out of this political quagmire,” Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said.

Indeed, 76% of respondents said they believed the country was greatly divided on its most important values. Just 21% said they though there was general agreement on those values.

Most, 51%, blame the divides on elected officials who are unwilling to meet in the middle. Another 42% say the problem lies with elected officials’ commitment to their principles.

Still, most Americans, 62%, said they believed it was important for Republicans to work with Biden, while 34% said it was more pressing that they keep him in check.

“If wishes were horses, as the saying goes. The public consistently expresses a preference for compromise and cooperation, but there is also a deep-seated distrust of the other side,” Murray said. “If there’s one thing political leaders have learned over the past decades, playing up that distrust is a path to short-term political gain even if it may erode public faith in the system as a whole.”

A little more than half of respondents, 51%, said they were very (13%) or somewhat confident (38%) that Washington would become less partisan under Biden’s tenure.

But, majorities of both parties — 64% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats — said they believed the opposing party would cause lasting harm to the country if it won the power to make policy.

Their hopes aren’t with Congress, which earned an approval rating of 23%-64%, more than 40 points underwater. Just 26% of respondents said the country was on the right track, while 68% said it was headed in the wrong direction.

More Americans, 45%, believe Trump did more to upend constitutional norms than past presidents, but 37% said he’d protected the document more than past presidents.

“This may be the most alarming finding in the poll,” Murray said. “No one who truly appreciates our country’s founding document can see the last four years as a high-water mark for upholding Constitutional norms. This speaks to the success of Trump and his allies in completely reframing the terms of political engagement, a development that started long before the current administration.”

The president’s approval rating is still underwater at 46%-51%, but its higher than the 41%-53% a Monmouth poll recorded in September.

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